Escoffier Questionaire: Ari Rosen
I’m showing my bias here, but if there were only going to be one restaurant available to me, for the rest of my digesting days, I would be happy if it were one of Ari Rosen’s two restaurants in Healdsburg. There’s something so deeply Sonoma County about Ari’s take on Italian: nonparochial, generous and ambling.
We stayed for a game of bocce, after our long early-evening meal on the patio of Campo Fina, and I experienced beginner’s luck and a Vermintina buzz in one memorable match. It was the exclamation point to a sublime meal, one of many I have enjoyed from the kitchen of this easy master.
Chef: Ari Rosen
Restaurants: Scopa and Campo Fina, Healdsburg
What was your favorite food as a kid?
Bagna cauda with raw vegetables for dipping. We ate this every Christmas Eve. Garlic, anchovies and cream—how can you go wrong?
What was the first meal you made that you were proud of?
When I was 16, I harvested mussels on the coast and cooked them for my friends. I wanted to retire after that meal.
What three adjectives describe your cuisine?
Simple, simpler and simplest (or at least working toward it).
What book most influences your food, cookbook or otherwise?
All grandmother recipes—they are the purest, most perfected, chock-full of nuance and will withstand the sands of time and are, therefore, the most sought after.
What chef do you most admire?
Jiro Ono [subject of the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi] embodies what all chefs strive for.
What is your favorite ingredient?
Puntarelle (a variety of chicory). When I lived in Italy I would go to the market every day to shop and I would buy a case for me and a case for the restaurant. It has a truly Italian nutty/bitter flavor.
What music do you like to hear when you cook?
Soul: Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding ... think Like Water for Chocolate.
What is your favorite hangover meal?
Barndiva’s brunch Kobe beef cheeseburger
What is your favorite midnight snack?
Cold fried chicken
What restaurant in the world are you most dying to try?
Jiro Ono’s sushi restaurant in Tokyo
What kitchen utensil is most indispensable to you?
Whom do you most like to cook for?
People without expectations
If you could do one other job, what would it be?
Movie producer or pig farmer, but my wife has forbidden the latter, so watch out Bright Lights, Big City, here I come!
What do you most value in a sous-chef?
Attention to detail and consistency
What food trend would you most like to erase from the annals of history?
Foam and aspic or foams made from aspic or aspics made from foams
What one food would you take with you on a desert island?
New York bagels and lox
What is your favorite guilty-pleasure treat?
Donuts at 4am, fresh out of the fryer. I’ve been known to linger late night outside bakeshops’ back doors.
What most satisfies your sweet tooth?
Hot blackberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream
What would you eat at your last meal, if you could plan such a thing?
An entire tin of caviar with an abalone spoon, served with Champagne. You’ve got to go out in style.
Cheeseburger or foie gras?
Cheeseburger, for sure.
What’s your favorite place to go (and what is your favorite thing to order) for ...
... happy hour?
Spoon Bar serves up some great drinks. I usually order a Smoky Paloma, which is Mezcal and grapefruit juice.
... a splurge meal?
Hana Japanese Restaurant in Rohnert Park. I start with Chef Ken’s staff meal and follow with whatever is fresh that day.
Plow in San Francisco on Potrero Hill. Everything on their menu is executed well. I really enjoy their shirred eggs and fried chicken sandy.
I’m addicted to the canneles at Downtown Bakery in Healdsburg.
... a late-night/after-work meal?
Late night at Dino Bugica’s house—his wife makes the best chicken cotoletta ala Milanese around.
... a cup of coffee?
Flying Goat, of course. Espresso, espresso, espresso is what keeps the world going round.
... a greasy spoon meal?
Fried oyster po’ boy or the turkey po’ boy at the Parish Café in Healdsburg
Spanish Table for tins of sardines, squid and octopus in their own ink
... kitchen equipment?
Shed in Healdsburg for cast-iron pots and pans
... ice cream?
Fiorello’s pistachio gelato
Chocolate-bacon bars from the Cheese Shop of Healdsburg
And lastly, but not leastly... what is your favorite local wine or beer for the season?
All summer I drink rosé and IPA. Top rosés at the moment are County Line, CEP & Unti and the top IPA would be Russian River’s Row 2.